By Dan Harding
For Ed Istwan and Kim Domanski of Baltimore’s Ednor Gardens, interior design, like life, is all about big smiles and popping colors. It is never static, but rather an artful representation of personality, vim and vigor. Since they purchased their 1929 row house in 2000, the exterior of the home has remained as quaint and natural as the quiet, tree-shaded neighborhood surrounding it. But inside their Baltimore home, there is a constant flow of artwork and artistic furniture. All keeping with the fun and fancy-free lifestyle of the owners.
Adding Function to a Small Urban Home
The pair met in graduate school at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and for 16 years since have been roommates on a mission. A mission that began with this Baltimore remodel. They replaced windows, removed unnecessary barriers – like a kitchen to dining room pass-through – that hindered the functionality of the small, urban home, and embarked on a joyous romp into color-scheming that defies the imaginings of any outside pedestrian trying to guess at the inside.
The bedrooms are Kelly green and pinkish-red, entryway and stairs bright yellow-green and the bathroom a seafaring turquoise. But don’t think that these colors are random or thrown on with the whimsy of a child engaged in a box of crayons. “The color scheme is inspired by a TV test pattern,” Istwan explained to Baltimore Style. “They are bright colors that pop, but aren’t overwhelming or Crayola-esque.” The diversely colored walls are the canvas which Istwan and Domanski embellish with free-spirited art and furniture pieces. And any free and easy design must have a free and easy base. So good luck finding an unadorned white wall inside this funhouse.
Speaking of the details, the pair’s home is a cornucopia of fun art pieces that might make no sense to an outsider, until one meets the person behind the poster or pattern. To that effect, it is important to know a bit about Ed Istwan and Kim Domanski.
Ikea in the Veins
Istwan is the visual merchandiser at IKEA‘s Philadelphia headquarters and Domanski works at the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts. Both involved in the local art scene. They are frequent denizens of local thrift stores, consignment shops, garage and estate sales. They are incessantly searching for that chair, that armoire, that print that properly reflects their personality and style. And they’ve been at it for years, compiling more than a home’s worth of furnishings and artwork (their basement is called the “stockroom”).
Istwan’s familiarity with IKEA is not hidden, either. Modular furniture is all over the house, as well as plenty of IKEA textiles, including rugs, window treatments and throw pillows. IKEA fabric panels have been laminated onto plastic panels and hung to create an accent wall in the living room. IKEA fixtures hang above their beds. They also have an IKEA kitchen.
Also important to Istwan and Domanski’s unique home decor is good old DIY ingenuity. When they couldn’t find a pendant light to hang above the dinner table, Istwan made one from scratch using electrical zip ties. At one point, the pair was seemingly stuck with 125 black frames they purchased from an outlet for $1 each. But they eventually bought a 1920s display book for Kosta Boda glass at an auction. Suddenly a use for the frames was found. Pages from the book now line the stairway, creating an elegant black-and-white collage on the yellow-green wall.
Home In Motion
And, of course, everything is changing all the time. Following every night a new day begins. And with every new day brings a new home, in some respect, for Istwan and Domanski. It could be as small a change as moving an art piece from one bedroom to another, or as big as changing out one piece of furniture in the basement stockroom.
If there’s one permanent design feature the pair has added, it’s the back deck. Inspired by Herman Miller’s Nelson Platform contemporary bench design (1946), the deck incorporates horizontal slats and conveniently expands the small row home’s entertainment space. The deck was designed and built with a local artist and friend, keeping with the personal nature of the home’s design.
Design as a Rolling Thing
Finally, if there’s one thing we can expect never to change in the Domanski/Istwan household, it is change itself. There is always more to do, more things to find, more colors and personality to be expressed. A sentiment in turn expressed nicely by Istwan: “When you talk about ‘interior design,’ it usually sounds like there should be a period at the end of the sentence and it’s over. For us, design is a rolling thing.”
Photos by Baltimore Style
Note from the hosts: We would like to thank CalFinder. You can find all of their contributions to Building Moxie here.